As I think back over the past month or two, I can’t help but reflect upon how very different life is today from what I expected it to be. Who among us would have thought we would be limited to being in the company of no more than ten people, sitting or standing at least six feet apart, or that we would be seeing empty shelves and refrigerators in grocery stores, or that we would be washing or sanitizing our hands multiple times everyday and being ever vigilant to wear gloves and or masks when and if we ventured out, or that we would be staying at home with our pets all day? From personal observation, my style may be cramped by all of this, but my pets are happier than they’ve ever been!
Today is Palm Sunday. This is the day King Jesus rode into Jerusalem seated on the back of a donkey, an unbroken colt. But as might have been expected, there was no chaotic scene as Jesus and this untrained donkey, unfamiliar with a burden on its back, walked amidst adults and children who shouted, “Hosanna!” and waved palm branches as they made their way through the streets of Jerusalem.
These people, much like ourselves, had a different expectation of what their lives would look like. After all, was not King Jesus their Deliverer? They sought a political figure, a King, who would free them from Roman rule. He did free them; He freed them from the tyranny of sin and death, and offered them eternal security, but this was not what they expected, nor was it what they wanted. Many of the same people who welcomed Him coming into Jerusalem that day, only a few days later, were clamoring for His crucifixion.
Unfulfilled expectations have a way of changing our thinking, and can be sources of great anxiety, can they not?
I think of all the people whose lives have been forever altered by the advent of the corona virus. They too undoubtedly thought life would be different; that it would not look quite the way it does now. Not only are they disillusioned, but they are profoundly sad, wondering why they have lost a loved one; why their loved one could not have been among those who recover.
I understand these emotions. This week takes me back seven years ago when I was faced with the accidental overdose of our son, Cullen. After years of struggling with addiction, his life seemed to be getting back on track. He had rented his own house, and had accepted the responsibilities associated with home ownership. He had asked forgiveness from us and from others for his actions while in the throes of addiction. He had weaned himself from methadone and the necessity of going to the clinic on a daily basis; on the outside, life looked good. The Christmas prior to his death, we enjoyed the best family time we’d had in years! All was well.
And then April came, and everything changed. Even though the landscape of our family had been altered years before due to the death of our full term infant son, Russell, that landscape once again was irrevocably shifted. Once again, life was very different from what I expected it to be. As Melanie DeSimone so wisely stated, “I didn’t want to remember my sons, I wanted to make memories with them.”
I too was disillusioned. Why would the God whom I love and serve allow this to happen yet again in my life? Why could my son not have been among the one to two percent of heroin addicts who recover and never relapse? So many questions, so few answers.
And yet I know that God loved Cullen even more than I do, or could. He had a plan and purpose for his life, and for the lives of those of us who were left behind; a good plan, in fact, the very best one. It was not my plan, nor would I have chosen this path had it been mine to choose, but it was not.
Cullen left us just eight days after the celebration of Easter in 2013. He knew Jesus; he not only knew about Him, but he trusted Him as his Savior and Lord. Because of his faith in Christ alone, I will see him again. Heaven is a real place, and I have treasure there…two of our five sons.
Yes, sometimes life looks very different from what I expected it to be. And yet as I yield my expectations to His good plan, I find great peace. The Scripture reading for one of the devotional calendars I have for April 8th, the day of Cullen’s death, captures that thought.